Posts filed under Weimar Republic

…and so it ends

my final NaNoWriMo wordcount

my grandparents weddingI’ve never written anything in the neighborhood of ten thousand words in a single day before.  And yet that was the incredible feat I managed to accomplish on November 30th.

But it still wasn’t enough.

in the beginning
This year I had decided that I was going to finish NaNoWriMo 2014 with 50k. That’s what the folks at NaNoWriMo call a “win.”

And I very nearly did. But it seems the Flying Spaghetti Monster really had it in for me this time.

I knew going in that I wasn’t ready, a disadvantage from the start.  And I didn’t actually decide what it was that I was going to write until the first of November. In the end, I decided that the best course of action would be to revisit last year’s “Unregrettable” project.

This book was inspired by my grandmother, who emigrated to Canada all alone in 1924.  I never knew my grandmother; but I vaguely knew there was a story that she had been sent overseas to get her away her from an unsuitable young man. The idea for the book first came to mind when I was digitally cleaning up a scan of my grandmother’s passport photo. And of course, I’m a novelist, not a historian or a biographer, so one of my earliest decisions was to have my character settle in the city of Kitchener instead of the rural Carlsruhe area to make it crystal clear this would be a work of fiction.

When I began writing it for last year’s NaNoWriMo, I found myself falling into the rabbit hole of research.  I started out with the idea that I knew something about the time period in which this book is set, but the research I began doing last November quickly disabused me of this notion.   The more I found out about the period, the bigger the project got, and I came to the realization that this story really needed to be more than a single novel. The beginning in the Weimar Republic would need at least a whole novel.   And the research just kept getting more and more interesting.

So the plan this year was to turn Margarethe’s backstory — the events leading up to her emigration — into the first novel.   Kind of like a prequel, or perhaps the first book of a trilogy. Of course I didn’t have an outline to start with, just some of the research I’d done last year, so although I knew some of the scenes I could write without one, I did this while working on the outline.  [One things I have learned is that I can write anything, so long as I have an outline.]  But it was slow going.

I can see clearly now
my new glassesI’ve been run off my feet a lot this year, so even though I have needed glasses for quite a while, I had been procrastinating about getting new ones.   Another big part of the problem was a reluctance to go back to my former optometrist.  But the incessant squinting at computer screens at the beginning of NaNoWriMo was driving me mad, so when someone told me about a new optometrist he liked, I sacrificed some valuable writing time to get my eyes tested and pick out some new glasses,.  The time away from writing was well worth it since it’s brilliant being able to see what I’m typing again.

Let It Snowsnow in November
Snow, snow and more snow. In the old days, the era before Climate Change, we might have seen some snow in November. But it would be just a light dusting. A little crunching under your feet, but nothing requiring a shovel. But those days are gone. This year we had snow. We got days where shoveling once a day didn’t cut it. Yay. Of course, *now* it’s all been washed away again, likely to have a green Christmas…

The Leak
One of the big things I’ve had to deal with has been unscheduled renovations. One morning there was water leaking through the plaster ceiling into my front hallway. The first plumber convinced me (because I so wanted to believe him and get back to writing) that the leaking was side splash from the shower curtain not being quite closed. And it stopped– for a while.  *sigh*

But then it started again.  The good plumber said they would have to rip a hole in my ceiling to find the leak. And so they did. And wasn’t that a job! And apparently the leak(s) had been ongoing for a while, since I don’t get along with mold, I enlisted an awesome restoration contractor to handle the clean-up and resultant renovation.  Which meant not just taking down the ceiling, but opening up walls.  I have been happy with the professionalism and skill of my contractors, but it would have been much better for my NaNoWriMo project if it had happened in any other month.

Book LaunchBook Launch
Another writer I know was launching his debut novel, so I took a wee break to attend his “Rocky Mountain Locust” book launch at the Jazz Room in the Huether. As it turns out, my hubby was coming down with a cold, so we didn’t stay long enough for the cake. I am pleased to have the book in hardcover, since it seems to be encumbered in DRM for the ebook format.

I tend to ignore our anniversary and my birthday because both happen during NanoWriMo.   This year we went out for a lovely anniversary dinner — which wasn’t.   The restaurant served me an inedible steak and assured me “they were all like that” so we left.  Peanut butter sandwiches… yay!   (Now that November is over I find I am still angry at the venue so I expect I will send out that letter of complaint I wrote during November.)

Research"People on Sunday" paddleboat
Of course pretty nearly everything I wrote was going to need research, because everything in my novel happens well before I was born, in a country I have never myself visited.

This period in Germany was actually a cultural golden age.  Not only is it a fascinating period of history, but there is a wealth of media available.  Many movies– some in the Public Domain! — from the Weimar Republic make it possible to get a real feel for the time and place.

For me as a movie buff, it is doubly interesting, because so many great movies were made there by movie pioneers like Frits Lang and Alfred Hitchcock.

Is “M” perhaps the first example of Film Noir?

Peter Lorre in M

the rabbit hole
with Irmgard KeunI was very much aware of the dangers involved in researching this book.  Because the reference material available isn’t limited to movies and textbooks, but novels, too.

Certainly the books of Irmgard Kuen are invaluable reference material.  Her own story would make a phenomenal book or movie, but for my purposes, I decided it would be a good idea to read some of her novels since she was the voice of the Weimar Republic’s “Neu Frau” generation.

I tried to buy one of her  eBooks, but it turns out the publisher’s DRM made it impossible to actually open it.   So I ended up ordering some of her books through local libraries.

I knew her novel Gilgi had been made into a movie, and so I looked around enough to try and find it, but alas, there don’t seem to be any copies left in existence.  Not surprising since her books were banned by the Nazis, but it’s too bad, particularly for me, because that’s the book that most closely dramatizes the world my Margarethe inhabits in “Unregrettable”

Still, I was careful not to go too far so I’d make it to 50k.

Through my life I’ve had some horrific dental experiences, so I am even worse about visiting the dentist than most people.  Having missed a few regular checkups, naturally I got a toothache during November.

And my dentist tells me that if you go to the dentist when you’re in pain it’s already too late.

As it turned out, the diagnosis was even worse… three– count ’em three — teeth in a row with cavities, and one — or maybe all– would need root canals.  As it turned out, the one I thought was the worst and asked to have fixed first wasn’t the one causing the pain, so I had to go back in the afternoon to get an emergency root canal on the one that was causing the agony.  (If you’ve got a good dentist, always take his or her advice.)   In all my tooth woes probably ate up two days with non-writing… and trust me, it’s easier to write brilliant novels without a toothache.

birthday breakfast
Even with all that, I might have made it. And technically I did make it because I did write more than 50,000 words in November. The problem is that I misplaced somewhere between seven and ten thousand of them. backups

The thing is, I knew about making backups.  Boy, did I know, having once lost the only copy of a script that had been green lighted for production and having to reconstruct the whole thing in a weekend.

Apparently I inadvertently deleted a huge chunk of the manuscript and cleverly saved over it (in all three places.) So now I know saving isn’t enough; versioning software is a great idea.  Next time.

So while I might technically have claimed a win, I didn’t have 50k in my manuscript to validate, and fudging that just would not have felt right. So I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo this year. But I did get a lot accomplished, and I know that life happens, but I gave it my best shot anyway.

And that’s enough of a win for me. 🙂

And so it begins…

NaNoWriMo is the (now International) National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve participated every year since I wrote my first novel.

But some traditional publishers and traditionally published authors look down their noses at NaNoWriMo.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo as a way to drive traffic from the ever-increasing international NaNoWriMo community to their own websites.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they’ve tried it, and failed.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they’ve bought into the mythology woven by the big five.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they fear the competition.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo even though they haven’t figured it out.   If something is beyond your ken, if you fail to grok it, if you simply can’t wrap your mind around it, you are not competent to judge it.  So you shouldn’t.

Now, that doesn’t mean NaNoWriMo is perfect; like most things human beings do it is going to have the odd flaw.  But the correct response to flaws is to identify them, and find constructive ways to fix them.  There is a world of difference between trashing anything and constructive criticism.  Like any organization, NaNoWriMo is run by an ever changing roster of human beings, so it is not going to be the same every year.  It is also a volunteer driven enterprise; it would not be as well established as it is but for the hard work of many dedicated volunteers.

Why NaNo?

NaNoWriMo Begins (2014 edition)

The reason NaNoWriMo is so successful is that it can be anything to anyone, because NaNoWriMo enables the establishment of supportive communities in which people can exercise their creativity in safety.  Some people do NaNoWriMo to see if they can do it, or just to see what writing a novel is like.  Some people do NaNoWriMo just because it’s fun.  Some people do NaNoWriMo to write other things, like short stories or non-fiction or to revise the novel they wrote last year, but NaNoWriMo embraces them as “NaNoWriMo Outlaws” because NaNoWriMo embraces everyone who needs it for whatever reason.  And some people do NaNoWriMo as an aid to writing novels professionally.
If you get something out of participating in NaNoWriMo, it’s worth doing. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.

My NaNo

Vanessa Ricci-Thode autographs "Dragon Whisperer"

Vanessa Ricci-Thode autographs “Dragon Whisperer”

NaNoWriMo helped make my debut novel possible, so no matter where it goes, no matter where I go, it will always have a special place in my heart.  One of the best things about NaNo, (for some wierd reason, participants tend to call the event “NaNo” and refer to ourselves as “WriMos”) is that it helps focus us on writing.  When you are just trying it on, or if you’re a self publishing novelist, this alone can be incredibly valuable.   For me, even if I am totally unprepared (which seems to happen more often than not), and even if I know that competing calls on my time, and personal obligations may mean that I probably won’t “win” by writing 50,000 words of a novel, I’m still inclined to participate every year.   Because I get something out of it.

This year I’ve decided I will be redoing my unfinished project from last year.  It’s my first attempt at a historical novel, but it went off the rails last year since  the research was so compelling it became clear my project was just too big for a single novel.   So I’m starting over.  Later on, some of the things that I wrote last year will probably be incorporated in one of the novels, but that won’t happen until the first draft’s editing phase.

autograph signing


Jazz Age Laurel

Jazz Age Laurel … my Hallowe’en costume was inspired by the era in which my novel Unregrettable trilogy is set.

Last night was my local region’s Hallowe’en kick-off party, which is one of the few events that don’t feature actual writing.  (Traditionally the other two non-writing events are the Half-Way Party and the After Party.  For the most part, every thing else is a write-in.)   I was lucky enough to win the best of the raffle prizes– a copy of “Dragon Whisperer,”  a book written by Vanessa Ricci-Thode, one of my local NaNoWriMo group’s Municipal Liaisons.

Of course, I can’t wait to read it… which would be a wonderful way to procrastinate instead of working on my NaNoWriMo project.  [As a group, writers are some of the most prolific procrastinators in the world!]   But today’s procrastination effort is this blog post, so Dragon Whisperer will have to wait its chance 🙂

So here’s wishing all my fellow WriMos get what they need from NaNo this year… good luck!

And now it’s time to go write a few thousand words…


Free Software for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo write-in - Computer on table

Surveillance and Software

With NaNoWriMo approaching, I shared a disturbing article about surveillance — “Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries” on one of the NaNoWriMo boards I visit. This got me an acknowledgement that yes, we are being routinely spied on by our software, but there is nothing to worry about. “All software is keeping track of stuff we do with it, if it dials home it exchanges data.”

I disagree — I think there is an awful lot to worry about. Privacy is important, it’s a human right because people need it. Among other things, we do things differently when we arweree always being watched. As a writer, I can assure you that I can’t lose myself in my writing if someone is looking over my shoulder. (In fact, when I decided to write my first novel, I went out and bought a secret laptop because I wasn’t ready for my hubby to know I was trying to write a novel.) So I know very well that privacy matters.

The good news is that it isn’t quite as terrible as all that, because all software is *not* keeping track of stuff we do with it. That may be true of proprietary software, closed source, DRMed stuff that usually costs lots of money, but FLOSS — Free Libre Open Source Software — software that we usually don’t pay for & mdash; generally respects our privacy. Even if developers of free and open source wanted to hide spyware in their software, they wouldn’t get away with it long because anyone can look at your code. But closed source non-free software can hide any spyware or malware. The irony is, we pay them lots of money and then they spy on us and extract our data

But there is a whole world of free software available. Free software doesn’t just mean that we don’t pay money for it– sometimes Free Software costs money. There are two meanings for the word “free.” Free can mean “gratis” as in no money changes hands, or “freedom” which means our freedom to use it as we like is protected. Free software is sometimes identified as being Free as in Freedom (FaiF), but the reality is that most of it is Free as in “Gratis” as well.

For myself, I believe the Free as in Freedom part is the more important. It’s amazing how much faster a computer can be when you chuck Windows (which is phoning home constantly) for any of the GNU/Linux operating systems — which don’t phone home without my consent.

I was just reading a spirited discussion on the NaNoWriMo site where someone asked “Free alternative to Scrivener??” and a Scrivener fan suggested free software is inferior.  Perhaps there was a time when free software was inferior stuff, but that is certainly not true now.

I appreciate that Scrivener is a small company that has developed a useful writing tool, as well as sponsoring NaNoWriMo. But not every tool is right for every writer; I think choice is the most important thing of all.

Maybe some day I’ll write about the free software philosophy and community, but today I just want to provide a quick introduction to some of the free software that might be handy for writers and self publishing novelists, when it’s still feasible for writers to learn how to use them before NaNo kicks off.

Useful Free Software for Self Publishing Authors

A full “office” suite (similar to Microsoft Word) which includes:

  • LibreOffice Base (database)
  • LibreOffice Calc (spreadsheet/calculator)
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • LibreOffice Impress (presentations)
  • LibreOffice Math
  • LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice, which I haven’t since the split. I expect the two programs are still quite similar.   Even though all these programs are included in the LibreOffice Suite, I have only ever used LibreOffice Writer (LOW) to any great extent. LOW is a reasonable word processing program; it generates nice PDFs and it’s capable of generating a wide variety of file formats, compatible with commercial proprietary formats.

Is a “notepad” like text editior, which does about the same things as MS Notepad. Talk about distraction free writing! I wrote the first draft of “The Girl In the Blue Flame cafe” with this, but I’ve now switched to LibreOffice for formatting since I don’t have time to learn LaTex right now.

“gedit provides a simple interface from which you have access to a full text editor with programming functions and is compatible with most languages. gedit incorporates text search and replace, spell checking, printing and support for opening almost any file.”

Because I use a Linux operating system, gedit and Libre Office are built in, so I don’t need to download it. It may be easier for you to get gedit here:

LaTex is a high quality typesetting program. Because I’m a perfectionist, I want to learn how to use this so I can layout my books exactly as I wish to. So far I’ve yet to learn this, but it is on my list.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Even if you’re going to hire a professional down the road, you’ll at least want some placeholder cover art to display on your NaNowriMo page during November. As near as I can tell, GIMP is the free software equivalent of Photoshop. I’m really only just now getting the hang of it because I’ve had to unlearn Photoshop.

If you prefer a vector based graphic program, you should instead look at Inkscape.

This amazing software was developed to help readers manage their eBooks, including format shifting eBooks, so they can be read on the desired device. But it is *also* a terrific tool for self-publishing authors, as it makes formatting eBooks a breeze.

FBReader (Free Book Reader)
Read eBooks on your computer ~ when you are selling eBooks, you want to make sure they display properly.

transforms my Android smart phone into an eReader. The best part is that it’s available through F-Droid, so I can by-pass Google Play.

Internet Tools

For research purposes you’ll need a good web browser, which might be:

Some good privacy respecting search engines that don’t track you are:

You’ll want to communicate with people, so you might want to consider using secure email like “Hushmail” or setting up PGP encryption for the email you’re currently using. (It is built in on Thunderbird Mail  Thunderbird Mail  Thunderbird Mail can haveGnuPG/PGP encryption added with a plug-in extension called “Enigmail”. Both Thunderbird and Enigmail are Open Source. The fork of Thunderbird called IceDove built is FAIF Software. /edited)    Keep in mind that the “lite” version of Hushmail is not as secure as the original version.  [CORRECTION: Bob Jonkman says:  “Finally, Hushmail lost all credibility as a secure e-mail service when they handed over plain-text copies of supposedly secure e-mail to law enforcement agencies. Other, better secure e-mail providers have shut down their businesses rather than compromise their customers’ data. In today’s coercive corporate-driven legal environment, the only way to be sure your data is not being handed over to law enforcement or being sold to advertisers is to host it yourself.]


When the time comes that you want to make a book trailer or edit a Crowdfunding pitch video, you will need good editing software, and fir that I can recommend KdenLive. This professional level video editing software is similar to Sony Vegas, but Windows users are out of luck as it only works on computers with Linux or FreeBSD and Mac OS X.

To get a really nice sound mix, once you’ve locked your picture you can export your audio tracks to Audacity.   and then lay it back into kdenlive for a final render.  There are many kinds of audio free software, so I have no doubt creating audio book formats is possible; I just don’t know how yet.

If you’re really energetic, you can make a full fledged 3D animation with the amazing free software Blender.

More Free Software Writing Programs

There are also a great many Free Software Writing programs I know of, but have not used myself. Because my own historical novel seems to be morphing into a trilogy, more organizational tools might help I will be looking at the ones that do the kinds of things Scrivener does, (oStorybook, Plume Creator, Kabikaboo, and maybe even the Scrivener for Linux – Beta; but not yWriter which is only for Windows).
On Clouds
I think Cloud based software is even more dangerous, because your work isn’t just locked inside proprietary software, it’s stored somewhere out there on some anonymous computer on the web and you don’t even know where. The only cloud I use is “OwnCloud” because I can self host it. That means I know where my work is, and it is always under my control. I would never choose a cloud based writing application where I do not have control of my work.

If you do choose to use any cloud based software, be sure to back up your work on your own computer for safety.

oStorybook ⇒
(needs java)

oStorybook is a free Open Source novel-writing program for creative writers, novelists, and authors. From the first idea to the finished book, oStorybook helps you keep an overview of multiple plot-lines, characters, locations, and so on while writing histories, novels, or other written works.
oStorybook assists you in structuring your book. Manage all your data such as characters, locations, scenes, items, tags, and ideas in one place. A simple consistent interface is provided to enable you to define objects, assign them to each scene, and keep an overview of your work with user-friendly chart tools.

Plume Creator ⇒
(only Windows and Ubuntu)

This software gives you an outliner, a distraction-free mode, a note manager and much more !
(This tool is in development, so you can expect new components will be added in the near future.)

Scrivener for Linux – Beta ⇒
Scrivener Linux beta released 22nd July 2014 … this is a Beta (test) version available for Linux, but I am guessing it is not FaiF

yWriter ⇒
(Only for Windows)

yWriter is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author, not a salesman!

Text Block Writer ⇒
(Similar to Scrivener bulletin board)

Text Block Writer is a virtual index card program for writers. It can be used to organize research papers, articles, fiction, non-fiction, books and whatever related to writing.
It is intended for people like me who use paper index cards to write all the notes and pieces of an essay, and then arrange the pieces and then use that to type them into the computer.

Kabikaboo ⇒

Kabikaboo is meant to help you plan a novel, but could be used for anything that would benefit from tree-based text organization. Kabikaboo is not meant to create a formatted document – you should use AbiWord/ OpenOffice, LaTeX or some other editor for that purpose.

Trelby ⇒

A free, multiplatform, feature-rich screenwriting program!

Freeplane ⇒

Freeplane is a free and open source software application that supports thinking, sharing information and getting things done at work, in school and at home. The software can be used for mind mapping and analyzing the information contained in mind maps. Freeplane runs on any operating system that has a current version of Java installed. It can be run locally or portably from removable storage like a USB drive.

FreeMind ⇒

FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. The recent development has hopefully turned it into high productivity tool. We are proud that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click “fold / unfold” and “follow link” operations.

Yarney ⇒
(cloud based)

Snippets. A snippet is a piece of text. Long or short, it’s just a way to organize your writing. For extra organization, you can also drag and drop to reorder…

Abiword ⇒

AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft® Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.
Free and simple word processing program

WikidPad ⇒

Software developers have grown accustomed to certain features from their integrated development environment that make their jobs easier. Features like auto-completion, outline views, incremental search, easy source code navigation. IDE’s that provide these features can greatly increase developer productivity. wikidPad attempts to utilize some of these features to address the problem of personal information management.

FocusWriter ⇒

FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work.

PyRoom ⇒

Just you and your thoughts
Writing prose in a world as busy as the online world can be hard. Instant messengers, busy websites and other distractions can always get into your way when all you want to do is write.

TextRoom ⇒

TextRoom and all other similar editors share one goal: to get you writing right away by providing distraction free environment to your liking, as well as familiar set of keyboard shortcuts to control its behavior. If you don’t feel comfortable already with your editor of choice, you may find it useful

Zim ⇒

Zim is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of wiki pages. Each page can contain links to other pages, simple formatting, and images. Pages are stored in a folder structure, like in an outliner, and can have attachments. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a nonexistent page. All data is stored in plain text files with wiki formatting. Various plugins provide additional functionality, like a task list manager, an equation editor, a tray icon, and support for version control. Zim can be used to keep an archive of notes, take notes during meetings or lectures, organize task lists, draft blog entries and email, or do brainstorming

Back in the day I was in love with WordPerfect. But the version I bought worked fine for me. But suddenly one day I was unable to print out my documents because my old version of WordPerfect did not support my new printer. I decided it wasn’t fair for the company to make the software that worked perfectly well obsolete, so I stopped using it. And I haven’t looked back since.

Anyone with a regular paycheck might be fine with subscription services, but through my experience as a creative free lancer I know free lance income can fluctuate wildly.  One month there might be a lot coming in, while the next month may bring next to nothing.   When the subscription is for a magazine, it’s no big deal if we let it lapse, but I am not willing to risk losing the writing tools I use to make a living.

Writers are a diverse lot; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I hope I’ve provided you with some alternatives you may not otherwise have even heard of.

NaNoWriMo Write-In

at a 2010 NaNoWriMo write in at the Queen Street Commons, Kitchener, ON

Whatever you choose to use, good luck on NaNoWriMo 2014.

glossary of software terms

Closed Source a lot of commercial software doesn’t allow the user to access, even to look at the code that makes the program work. Without transparency, any spyware or malware can be hidden within and no one will be the wiser.

Commercial Software can be free software or non-free software — it is is software that is sold.

Crippleware is deliberately disabled to allow you to try enough of it to like it, but you will have to pay to try the full version.  When developers started withholding key features of software unless a payment was made (“For only $5 you can save your files!”) it was called Crippleware.  Sometimes it is the complete program but only for a time limited free trial; if you fail to pay before the trial ends, the software stops working.  Any documents made in the software’s proprietary formats may well be lost to you at this point.

FLOSS Free-Libre-Open-Source-Software is another widely used term for free open source software

Free Software is defined by the Four Freedoms by the Free Software Foundation (FSF).  Frankly, I very much doubt free software would exist without the FSF.  Free Software– often called Free-As-In-Freedom (FaiF) Software — respects your freedom.   FaiF Software can be Commercial Software too — there’s nothing that prevents people from selling software that respects your freedom.

Freemium software, is like Crippleware with a positive spin.  It is also missing features, but those are marketed as enhancements (“For only $5 you get the colour version!”)

OpenSource the software code is open, so it is possible to see what is in it. The term open source is usually used for commercial software.

Proprietary Software is software that is owned by someone else.  We don’t actually buy Windows, Word, Final Draft, Scrivener etc. — they are the property of the corporation that owns the Intellectual Property.  We pay for a license to use it, and  when we click “I agree” we are accepting the Terms and Conditions spelled out in the legal document that specifies what we are legally allowed  to do with their software for the duration of the license. Proprietary Software never respects your freedom. Just the fact that someone lays claim to owning the ideas behind the software makes it non-FAIF. And of course, such terms and conditions are subject to change (by the owner) without notice.   Because you don’t actually own the software, you may be required to pay for upgrades, or the company that owns it can choose to stop supporting it (as Microsoft did with Windows XP) or the company can go out of business. In any of these scenarios, you could lose access to your work if it is locked in a proprietary format, which is why a friend of mine has dubbed it “ransomeware.”

Shareware and Freeware Originally there was Shareware, which encouraged people to distribute it, usually at no cost except the price of the media. Shareware can be FaiF Software when source code is made available and modifications are allowed. Some Shareware was Proprietary Software, as the authors did not supply source code and disallowed modifications. When developers starting asking for donations for Shareware the term Freeware was coined to differentiate no-cost software from software asking for donations. Freeware isn’t necessarily FAIF Sofware either.

Open Source Software (OSS) and FLOSS FaiF Software both make source code available, encourage wide distribution and modification. The main difference is philosophy: Open Source is primarily a good model for creating high-quality software; FAIF Software is primarily about respecting software users’ freedom.

Note: This glossary has been edited to correct errors since initial publication in response to @bobjonkman‘s comment below.  He generously suggested my errors were minor, but I think they needed correcting just the same.  I am not a tech person, but I do try and get it right.  The original glossary text was and is in italic text, the corrections and additions are in plain text.    The changes are extensive enough that Bob should certainly be credited as a co-author of the glossar,

Adventures with Amazon Central

When you decide to self publish, it’s important to be as visible as possible. This is a big part of why I am all over the Internet, and why I’ve just set up my “Author Page” on Amazon Central. Unfortunately the Amazon page is a rigidly set up form that limits what and how authors can share our information.

Possibly the most ironic part of the experience was where the page offers the new user an opportunity to view a “sample” page. What displays is Frank McCourt’s Author Page, which demonstrates where the author photo will sit, as well as showing off Frank’s nice black & white title banner. In creating my own banner, I even made sure to use the exact dimensions of Frank’s banner.

My own black and white author banner, with my gravatar alongside my name written in white letters against a black field

The problem is that while my author photograph rests on the left just like Frank’s, alas, there is no way for me to upload my own black and white name banner to Amazon Central, nor any means of creating one on the site. It is possible such banners used to be allowed, but since that is not the case now, Frank’s page does not provide a true example of how an Amazon Central Author Page will look.

Another difficulty was having a limited space for the biography without knowing what the limit was, exactly. The limit is not screen real estate; it makes no difference whether your words are squished together in a single paragraph or spread out in airy paragraphs. The limit is probably by word or character count, but it required trial and error and tinkering to ensure mine ended where I wanted it to. You can exceed the limit but then are left with only an exerpt, not the best way to make an introduction.

The “Upcoming Events” segment had its issues as well. Naturally I intended to add my participation in NaNoWriMo 2013. While the form allows this, but automatically fills in the venue information with the physical address of the NaNo HQ. My participation will be taking place online, not in California. I can see this being a problem for me forever, since the address for the venue for many of my own events will be “online.” Altering the form to allow the inclusion of a URL as an address would be very helpful.

My last problem is that the section requires an Amazon published book title. While I can understand why Amazon would like to encourage this, NaNoWriMo isn’t an event for selling books that are already written, but to encourage the writing of new novels. Including the name of my debut novel was not really appropriate here, but is required by the form, so I was torn between not making use of the space or including information that isn’t quite right. I’m still trying to come up with a way to make it work.

Beyond these glitches, my page came out fine. 🙂